Right to Information

Denying info: PIC issues show case notice to MOFA and eight other public bodies

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) has issued show cause notices to nine public bodies of the federal government including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) over its failure to comply with the orders of the commission.

The Pakistan Information Commission in its order on June 04, 2020, directed MOFA to provide information about the total number of letters written and names of the countries pertaining to the hunting of houbara bustards in Pakistan.

Moreover, the MOFA was also directed to provide certified copies of the requested letters after extracting sensitive contents.

The order was issued over an appeal of a citizen named Naeem Sadiq who had requested the MOFA to provide the photocopies of the letters written by the Pakistan Foreign Office that permitted, invited, or approved the hunting of houbara bustards.

The citizen approached the Pakistan Information Commission when he did not received the requested information within the stipulated time period mentioned in the law i.e. 14 days.

On the notice of the PIC, MOFA through a letter No. DCP(P&I)18-6/2019-20(Allocation) dated 09/01/2020, claimed that requested information cannot be shared under Article 16 (a)(ii) of Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.

Later, through another letter No. DCP(P&I)-18-6/2019-20 dated 04/03/2020 the MOFA stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not issue hunting permits. After the 18th Amendment subject of Wild Life was shifted to the provinces, therefore, provincial wildlife department issues the hunting permit in accordance with their respective Wildlife Laws. Ministry of Foreign Affairs only conveys its recommendations to the Provinces.

Keeping in view the sensitive nature of foreign relations, the requested information cannot be shared as it may cause damage to the national interests of Pakistan in conduct of its international relations.

The order states, the hearing of the case was held on 05/03/2020 and Mr. Adeel Pervez – Dy. Chief of Protocol – appeared on behalf of the MOFA. He maintained that the “Keeping in view the sensitive nature of foreign relations, requested information cannot be shared as it may cause damage to the interest of Pakistan in conduct of its international relations”.

After listening point of view of MOFA, the PIC on June 04, 2020 issued ordered and directed the MOFA to provide the requested information to the citizen at the earliest, but in any case, not later than 10 working days of the order.

Despite the passage of more than a month to the order of PIC the MOFA did not provided the requested information. The PIC on Friday issued show cause notice to the Spokesperson / Public Information Officer of the MOFA.

The spokesperson is directed to appear in person before the commission on July 23, to argue as to why proceedings may not be initiated against her under Section 20 (2) of the Right of Access to Information Act 2017.

The said section of the act states, Non-compliance of a decision of the information commission under the clauses of (e) and (f) of sub-section (1) may, if it has not been appealed against within thirty days, be dealt with in the same way as contempt of the court.

The other public bodies to whom show cause notices are also issued incudes, National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment, Trading Corporation of Pakistan (Pvt.) Limited, National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine,Federal Government Employees Housing Authority, Pakistan Institute of Medical Science, Ministry of Climate Change and Department of Stationery and Forms.

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